Saturday, December 27, 2008
Sensational ‘shelters for the night’
Chattanooga bed and breakfasts, inns and boutique hotels you must experience for yourself during 2009
Wayfarers in Colonial America, where lodging establishments were few and far between, relied on the kindness of strangers to provide shelter for the night. More than a century later during the Great Depression, tourist homes offered an economic advantage for both the weary and their hosts; travelers stopped at houses with signs reading “Tourists or Guests” indicating they could rent a room for the night for about $2.
Often unknown and underappreciated within their own communities, bed and breakfasts—or B & Bs—are today as American as apple pie. You can find them in all50 states—in cities and remote areas. Unlike boutique hotels, guest houses and inns with similar allure (often in the form of modest cottages or opulent mansions), bed and breakfasts are private homes where owners generally make breakfast and clean rooms. While delivering equal charm and quaintness, many boutique hotels and inns also offer upscale amenities to include wireless Internet access, spa services and nightly wine and cheese service.
Here are a few highly-regarded retreats that must be experienced to be appreciated! Before finalizing vacation plans for 2009, why not resolve to schedule a hometown getaway—enjoying one or more of Chattanooga’s unique and historic treasures without being weary from travel?
Mayor ’s Mansion Inn
“We want guests to feel like they’re visiting their rich Uncle Henry’s house,” laughs Cindi Ladd, who along with her husband Mark owns the Mayor’s Mansion Inn. The only four-diamond historic inn in Tennessee, it is also one of 400 standouts chosen by Distinguished Inns of North America.
Located on Vine Street, the structure was built in 1889 by Edmond G. Watkins, a businessman whose role in the growth of post-Civil War Chattanooga earned him the post of Chattanooga’s Mayor in 1897. Many of the original features of his home are still intact, including the colorful, patterned tiles covering the wraparound porch.
The Ladds strive to stay away from anything that feels pretentious. Intricate moldings, rich colors, and period furnishings complement soaring ceilings. In the parlor, comfortable furniture, a crackling fire and an in-progress jigsaw puzzle on a coffee table are apt to prompt visitors to take their shoes off and curl up on the settee with a book. Popular activities include a hosted reception Fridays and Saturdays when guests gather in the parlor to socialize.
A three-course gourmet breakfast is served daily in the Tiffany dining room, named for its Tiff any-style stained glass windows. Each guest room is uniquely decorated and furnished with an eclectic mix of historic and contemporary accessories. Brightly colored bathrooms, historic posters, antique four-poster beds and garret windows are commonplace throughout.
“Everyone gets excited when we have an event to put on,” says Cindi. “It’s hard work, but it’s so fun to see the house filled with people and everyone having a good time.”
The Stone Fort Inn
Stepping through the red front door of this “boutique hotel” on the city’s Southside, you almost expect Zelda and Scott Fitzgerald to meet you under elegant chandeliers. e delightful retreat reflects all the glitter one would expect from a grand hotel built in the early 20th century. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, a renovation six years ago preserved the historical integrity of the building.
The expansive rooms, where fi replaces and luxurious fabrics create a sense of elegance and comfort, are enough to encourage guests to extend stays. e hotel’s lounge—complete with an antique pool table built in 1910— and a parlor featuring a grand piano from the 1850s, add to the ambiance.
Owner Sydney Slome has international experience in the hospitality industry. He doubles as chef, creating gourmet breakfasts for weekend guests. Meals are complemented by a lofty dining area with beautiful woodwork and large windows opening to patios with additional seating.
In addition to hosting weddings and other private events, the Inn offers dinner theater on select weekends. Productions are performed “theater in the round” in the dining room. Nearly every guest praises the restful atmosphere and casual elegance of the retreat, according to its innkeeper, Edie McGee. She says a delighted visitor told her “a weekend here is worth a week anywhere else!”
The Bluff View Inn
I n the 1800’s, Bluff View was a downtown district favored by Chattanooga’s most prominent families. By the middle of the 20th century, however, many had departed, and their once-majestic homes fell into disrepair.
Today, after years of restoration and renovation, the area is known as the Bluff View Art District. Guests at the Bluff View Inn stay in one of three separate structures – the McClellan House, a vast and stately Tudor; the Martin House, a columned and traditional brick building; and the Thompson House, a delicate Victorian with gingerbread trim. Architectural characteristics and antique furniture original to the homes have been preserved or restored. Innkeeper Kelly Courter says guests constantly compliment the district’s diamond-paned windows, hidden gardens and narrow stone paths that create the feel of a European village.
Courter also says vacationers favor Bluff View Inn for its proximity to nearly everything. Just steps from each room lies some of the city’s most popular restaurants, including Back Inn Café and Tony’s Pasta Shop & Trattoria. Art aficionados can stroll over to the Sculpture Garden which features works of art from around the world.
Courter says guests refer to the Bluff as a “quaint gem.” Like her own favorite garden hidden behind the McClellan house, she views the Bluff as a best-kept-secret.
Just south of Chattanooga’s downtown district, atop Lookout Mountain, travelers will find the Chanticleer Inn outside the gates of the famed park, Rock City Gardens. the quaint stone mansion tucked amid a thicket of tall pine trees was originally built in 1927 as a private residence but opened to guests in 1930. One of two inns in Chattanooga endorsed by Distinguished Inns of North America, the Chanticleer offers guest rooms that are inviting and distinctive, set apart by eclectic collections of antiques and contemporary furnishings. Colors throughout—buttery yellows, soft cream sand sun-washed reds— create a warm and relaxing atmosphere. Audrey and Robert Hart have owned the Chanticleer for only a few months, drawn to the inn after their first visit the Harts say close proximity to the city is especially unique because the Chanticleer itself “feels like a different world.” Each morning, Jessica Hutchings, a chef trained by the prestigious Johnson and Wales College of Culinary Arts, welcomes guests to a cheerful dining room for a gourmet breakfast featuring her lauded blueberry pancakes. Guests enjoy games or relax on a cozy sofa in front of a glowing fire in the main living room. During warmer months, guests enjoy numerous small decks and patios or socialize in a central stone courtyard beneath a grove of pine trees.
Old Towne Bed and Breakfast
Just a fifteen-minute drive from downtown, guests at the Old Towne Bed & Breakfast on Signal Mountain are a stroll away from breathtaking panoramas as well as many historic homes and century-old oak trees in the area. e famous B & B is also near Signal Point where visitors can watch the sun set over the spectacular Tennessee River Gorge and, on a clear night, see the twinkling lights of Chattanooga. Owners Earl and Susan Rothberger say they got used to an open door policy, thanks to their five children. After the kids moved out, turning their 1927 home into a bed and breakfast seemed like a natural step. An avid collector and restorer of antique furniture and fixtures, Susan uses her talents to make the home feel especially inviting while Earl cooks. The breakfasts at Old Towne, created by Earl in a newly renovated kitchen, receive rave reviews. Although he adapts his menu according to the preference of guests, he says he is proud of his specialties including “green grits” baked with spinach, leeks, and white Vermont cheddar cheese.
Photographer: Jason Faulkner